pounds 1.5m bill for dentist who wrecked teeth

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A dentist who "wilfully damaged patients' teeth on a massive scale" as he carried out unnecessary work was ordered to pay more than pounds 180,000 in damages yesterday.

The High Court judgment could lead to pay-outs of up to pounds 1.5m for another 64 patients of Barry Garrett. The court in Leeds heard how Mr Garrett, who practised at Driffield, Humberside, left patients with psychological problems and needing extensive repairs to teeth.

Garrett was struck off the dental registry after complaints about over- treatment but reinstated only two years later.

Mr Justice Dyson described him as a disgrace to his profession. "After hearing the appalling catalogue of events, some may be surprised that the public were protected from Mr Garrett for only two years," he said. Eight patients were awarded more than pounds 184,000 in total for general damages.

Garrett's legal team said they would be considering an appeal. His solicitor, Ralph Shipway, did not know where the dentist was or if he was still practising.

Nigel Walsh, solicitor for the patients, criticised dental chiefs for reinstating the dentist. "I don't know if he is still practising ... I hope he's not practising for the sake of other people."

He said Garrett would not pay one penny of the estimated pounds 1.5m final bill for all 72 plaintiffs, including the eight in court. Garrett's insurers, the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland, will foot the bill.

One patient, Jane Appleton, 26, started having treatment at Garrett's surgery when she was 15. Over four years she had 25 sessions to treat 13 teeth. She had 18 pins, 10 crowns and two root canal treatments. At times she would be in the chair for three hours.

Mr Justice Dyson said all the work on the patients was unnecessary and badly done. "He took advantage of their ages, most were young, and abused his position and calling. He wilfully damaged patient's teeth on a massive scale." The judge added: "I am driven to conclude that the motive was profit."

Dental experts will assess payments to the other patients.